March 2017

Adjunct professor doubles as small-town mayor

At Saint Augustine’s University, Chris Rey is known as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Department. But in Spring Lake, a small town in central North Carolina, he is known as “Mr. Mayor.”

Rey has been mayor of the town of 11,000 in Cumberland County since 2011. He is not originally from Spring Lake – Rey is from St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His family moved to Fayetteville, N.C., when he was 8 years old, and eventually settled in nearby Spring Lake. After graduating from high school, he attended East Carolina University on a full track scholarship, majoring in business administration. After that, Rey attended The College of William & Mary School of Law in Virginia.

After graduating from ECU, Rey joined he U.S. Army.  Later, he spent time as an intern for Congressman John Lewis. Rey began thinking about a career in politics and had ambitious plans. He explained in a recent interview with the Independent newspaper how he ended up back in Spring Lake: He ran into some friends from that town, who told him about the town’s problems and asked him if he were planning on coming back. “I didn’t have the courage to tell them no,” he said.

Rey may eventually have more ambitious plans than Spring Lake – in 2015, he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in North Carolina – but, for now, he is a small-town mayor.

Rey chose to teach at Saint Augustine’s University because he was familiar with the university from a tour when he was trying to decide where to go to college. “Saint Augustine’s was the first college campus I stepped foot on as a 14 year old kid,” he said. “I knew after walking the grounds of the university I wanted to attend college one day.  Having the opportunity to teach the next generation of global leaders excited me and I knew I was up for the challenge.”

Rey is happy to be in the Falcon family. “Watching your students develop into scholars is every professor’s dream,” he said. “I have the best students on campus.  The faculty and staff have been nothing but gracious and helpful to me since coming on campus,” he added.

He said it has been “a true balancing act” being the mayor and working at a university, “but it has been a labor of love,” Rey said. He commutes over an hour to get here. Rey said both are important to him.

Rey is also proud of his work as mayor. “In five short years, we have been able to transform Spring Lake from a sleepy trailer town to a major economic booster for our county and region,” her said.

But he seems to be equally proud of his work at Saint Augustine’s.

“I want to make sure that all my students are ready for their professional careers when they graduate,” Rey said. “I feel that I owe that to them, and I want my students to feel they owe it to the world to be ready as well. …”

His hope is to produce the next business, government, and social justice leaders for our nation. The university’s faculty, he said, “are at the forefront of producing the next great scientist, doctor, social worker, and political leader that will impact all our lives.”

— Sterling Raynor